No one should have to diet alone. But is a virtual fitness pal the answer?
I’ve got a new best friend. Always there for me, day and night. Never judges or tempts me with a night in with some prosecco. I’ve seen her around before but I’ve only really got to know her this year as I began my countdown to 40 and a slinky party dress, and thus the first sustained effort in my life to shed a certain number of pounds.
She fits in my pocket and never sleeps. She is My Fitness Pal.
I’m sure you’ve heard of her – but if you’re not one of her millions of pals, she is an app. A calorie counting, nutrition-assessing, fitness-tracking app. She works by the basic premise of weight loss:
Burn more calories than you consume = weight loss
But like every great tool, My Fitness Pal has its limitations. It’s only as good as the data you put in. And this is where her Jekyll and Hyde nature is revealed, as my little breakdown shows below.
My Fitness Pal: Friend or Foe?
Friend: It records every calorie you eat. So on a good day you feel virtuous and positive.
Foe. It records every calorie you eat. So when you’ve eaten 80% of your daily limit by 11am, it’s soul-destroying.
Friend: It has a huge database of every food you can imagine, generic and branded, with calories and nutrients already there for you.
Foe: It doesn’t cover things that I eat regularly, like:
Three chips soggy in cold bean juice
A mouthful of pasta and pesto with grated cheese – just to check it still tastes the same as the last million times
The scrapings of mash in the end of the pan
A pre-mouthed Malteser
The squashed Quavers in the crease of the baby carseat.
To cover these daily inevitabilities, I tried to create an entry to cover such daily delicacies, but here the app saw me coming. You can’t just put in “Sundries” with an estimated number of calories. That’s where all diets fail – the unrecorded consumption of incidental snackery that passes in front of your starved eyes when you are at your weakest.
So if I can’t be bothered to break down my casual snackage and am feeling honest enough to log it, I just do a Quick Add of 100 calories. That should cover it, right!?
Friend: You can cheat and it doesn’t say anything.
Foe: But you are only cheating yourself. Yawn. If I don’t lose the predicted weight, I can’t help but feel my app is silently glowering at me: “Well, if you’d just told me the truth, you wouldn’t be in this predicament, would you? I told you exactly what to eat to lose weight and you not only went against it, but lied about it. No, no, I’m not angry. I’m just disappointed.”
Friend: It doesn’t judge you.
Foe: But it makes you judge yourself. I suppose this is a good thing, but who really likes a friend who tells them they’re eating too much chocolate / drinking too much wine for their health?
Friend: It shows you how much of your recommended intake of vitamins and minerals you have eaten each day.
Foe (or design flaw): If you eat loads of fruit and veg (as I do most days), your Vitamin C is off the scale, but is represented in “bad” red font, like when you go over your saturated fat limit.
Foe / Design Flaw 2: It shows me that I eat way lower than my sodium limit a day – which means I now add salt to everything as I feel like I can, where I never did before…
Friend: It projects your success when you complete your entry for the day: “If every day were like today, in 5 weeks you’d weigh X lbs.”
Foe: 1) Every day then has to be like today for it to come true. 2) 5 weeks never comes…!
Friend: It’s the only person in the world who cares if you lose a pound. If I find I’ve lost a pound, I feel a bizarre urgency to rush and tell My Fitness Pal.
Foe: It doesn’t really care. It’s an app.
Friend: It works.
Foe: If you never let it go.
What do you think of My Fitness Pal, if you’ve used it? What are your tech tips and tricks to weight loss – or do you leave tech right out of it?
I’d love to read your replies while I enjoy a guilty glass of prosecco with my new best Pal…
Note: This is not a sponsored post. My Fitness Pal is free and this is just my opinion of it.